Written by Leesa K. Donner and Mark Angelides.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden finally broke his silence regarding the sexual assault allegations made by former staffer Tara Reade. Appearing this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the former VP strenuously denied that these claims were true.
It was apparent that even a Biden-friendly media behemoth couldn’t hold back the tide of a story whose time has come. The Morning Joe team entered a realm rarely explored and questioned the presumptive Democratic Party nominee on the sexual assault allegation of Tara Reade. If the viewing public were hoping Joe Biden would face a challenging line of enquiry, they may have been disappointed.
As Mika Brzezinski made her best effort to seriously question the former vice president, it became apparent that not a single word or utterance was unscripted. Biden took advantage of not being live in the studio to give himself time, prep, and almost certainly staffer assistance just in case a hand grenade was lobbed.
It seems likely that a great deal of horse-trading took place beforehand. And if there were any doubt which angle the Morning Joe team were going to take, Joe himself primed the pump, stating before the interview that they were going to look into the allegations and that, “We’re going to be putting that in perspective of the man he’s going to be running against.”
Campaign strategists will tell you that in situations where your candidate is dealing with a messy story – and the Tara Reade allegations certainly qualify – that there is an established protocol that goes something like this:
- Ignore, ignore, ignore the allegation/charge/video: Starve it of oxygen. Put it on extinction. Say NOTHING as long as possible.
- Dust off your surrogates and get them to do the dirty work for you.
- Answer the charge – but only if absolutely necessary.
- Put your candidate in a friendly environment for his/her response.
- Cross your fingers that your candidate does not screw up – pay special attention to non-verbal cues.
- Expect the story to get worse before it gets better.
One can only guess that the Biden for President campaign had a powerful epiphany – a real come to Jesus moment – following a pointed article by The Washington Post editorial board calling for their candidate to step up and face the Tara Reade music.
The Washington Post advised in what appeared to be an open letter to the Biden campaign, “Tara Reade deserves to be heard, and voters deserve to hear her. They deserve to hear from Joe Biden, too.” Indeed, it was long past time for Mr. Biden to address Ms. Reade’s complaint, and the WaPo editorial signaled to Biden’s people that they were past number one (ignore, ignore, ignore) and were, in fact, having trouble with number two (dust off your surrogates).
For instance, The New York Times did not take kindly to the spin the Biden campaign put on its article about the controversy. Whatever the vice president’s campaign put out in terms of talking points (and Liberty Nation does not use BuzzFeed as a source), let’s just say that by the time they trickled down to Democratic talking heads, NYT reporter Lisa Lerer was forced to set things straight. “Our investigation made no conclusion either way,” she tweeted.
Lerer was likely reacting to a recent statement by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on CNN. Abrams stated, “The New York Times did a deep investigation, and they found that the accusation was not credible.”
Oops. Enter phase three of the protocol on how to clean up your candidate’s mess. It is likely the Biden folks have people like Mika and Joe Scarborough on speed dial – so it would not take much to get in touch with them. That would certainly take care of phase four: Put your candidate in a friendly environment for his/her response.
And that brings us to where we are now. You can bet the campaign spin machine began the second after Biden left the MSNBC airwaves. It’s on overdrive now, and the surrogates are being stamped out like jelly donuts spewing out of the machine.
Building up the much-anticipated interview, the hosts were keen to set out their own credentials. “The media should not apply a Kavanaugh standard” to Joe Biden, Brzezinski began, before entering a long litany of how unbiased the Morning Joe team have been on the #MeToo bandwagon. This was a credibility-building exercise in order to make their upcoming assessment hold more weight. She then outlined every single accusation ever made against President Trump.
This is why a candidate should get on the tube and get on with it in the hopes that the voters will get over it. But let’s face it – it is always a gamble and campaigns are loathe to address every Tom, Dick, and Harry that tweet out decade-old allegations.
Despite this morning’s come-hither moment by the former vice president, the Tara Reade story has been slow – as in painfully slow – to gain traction in the legacy media. Biden obviously hopes to tamp down the story with his response this morning.
When the candidate finally appeared on air, the interview followed a familiar theme.
The former VP emphatically denied that he had ever engaged in the behavior described, at times seeming offended that he should be accused of such. Brzezinski appeared to be following a carefully scripted set of questions for the first round. Predictable, if a bit halting. However, one area she did push the candidate on was his insistence that if any record of Ms. Reade’s claims existed than it would be in the National Archive. With what appeared to be teary eyes and a quivering voice, she asked again and again if there would not be some records stored in Delaware … Biden responded that no such records would be kept anywhere other than the Archive.
At the top of Tara Reade’s Twitter account lies a retweet from television network journalist Rich McHugh. He tweeted, “NEW: A former neighbor of Joe Biden’s accuser Tara Reade has come forward, on the record, to corroborate her sexual assault account, saying Reade discussed the allegations in detail in the mid-1990s.”
And so the elephant is finally out of the room and Camp Biden moves into phase six – where it gets worse before it gets better. The best path forward for them is to batten down the hatches and wait out the inevitable storm. However, the mere fact that Biden “hopped-to” when WaPo spoke will bode well for him. As an obedient slave, Joe Biden has fulfilled his master’s request. Thus, he is more likely to receive a pat on the head than a slap from his pals in the legacy media.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner and Mark Angelides.
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